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The ‘food-to-go’ culture in Kuwait

By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: Food-to-go culture is a popular practice around the world, where people ask waiters to wrap the leftovers to take with them and eat elsewhere. In many cultures, food to go is considered a practical way of enjoying restaurant-quality food for later, and many restaurants even encourage their customers to package their food to go. Haitham Yaqoob, an Omani, told Kuwait Times that taking leftover food home isn’t in his culture. “People in my society consider it as a not likable behavior.

They will say that they have the financial ability to buy another meal for later if they feel hungry. Saving money isn’t an issue,” he said. “My community believes people will think you’re poor if you ask a waiter to pack your meal, although they know that all the food is going to be wasted, as some restaurants’ policies make sure such food must get tossed,” he added. “I used to feel embarrassed to ask for my food to be packed when I was younger, so I guess people who find it unacceptable are mostly just ashamed or think it’s inappropriate.

But since I learned the leftovers were thrown into the wastebin, I always ask to wrap anything left from what I ordered from the food,” Ahmad Harbi, a Kuwaiti, said. “Maybe some people don’t care about throwing food, and that may be what they do in their homes. People are being irresponsible; it’s not just about wasting money, it’s more about respect than money,” he said, noting: “It is a crime for this to happen in a Third World country. Some countries have passed laws requiring their citizens to pay money for the food they waste, such as North Korea. Wasting food is wasting money.”

On the other hand, Mona Omran, a Syrian expat, sees taking leftover food home may cause health problems, because once food is exposed to air, it becomes contaminated. “Food could be contaminated with bacteria and the smells of hookah or dust and dirt in the air,” she said. She suggested people must ask the waiter about the size of the meal, and if the quantity is large, they must quickly ask for the extra food to be packed in order to keep it healthy and fresh, adding that wrapped food kept for a long time in the car makes it inedible and dangerous to eat. Rawan Hendawi, a Jordanian expat, affirmed that people are allowed to take leftovers from the restaurant because they paid for it.

“If you eat with your family, you can take the rest of it if the quantity is large or more than half the amount. Wasting food is environmentally and socially irresponsible,” she said, adding being a mother can play a big role in taking food to go. “Children are always asking for more food than they need, but eat only a little. In this case, you have the right to take the rest of the food, so that they can eat it if they feel hungry later.”

From another perspective, Hendawi mentioned that self-made rich people are far from extravagant. “In fact, the wasteful people are often, according to my observations, the poor ones. I feel responsible if the food that was ordered exceeds the needs of those present, especially since I know that restaurants have strict instructions to throw away the leftovers,” she said.

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